Harmony is sublime in music but deadly to innovation. The only way to create new, hybrid solutions is to clash. Innovation happens when we bring people with contrasting perspectives and complementary areas of expertise together in one room. We typically innovate best with people who challenge us, not people who agree with us.
As a business leader, you are responsible to create an environment and culture where your employees can best innovate. Here are some steps you can take to promote a creative culture within your organization:
- Create a safe collaborative space: Collaborative innovation comes in many forms and kinds. From brainstorming sessions like innovation jams to crowdfunding, these forms of growth all mobilize a diverse group of people with a variety of skills. The benefits of joint innovation efforts are plenty: the global scale of the initiative, the rapidity of experimentation, the reservoirs of outside talent, the guaranteed wider array of solutions. See on how to create a respectful ideation space.
- Avoid getting stuck in the center: When a large team of people has ideas and they all share them, there’s a danger that everyone will get pulled to the center and be reduced to something unexceptional. Don’t let the multiplicity of ideas at a brainstorming session get flattened out into a mass of mediocrity. Keep challenging yourself and those around you to go outside of the expected limits and boundaries of your project.
- Surround yourself with people unlike you: Find the people who can fill in your blind spots and help you with things you don’t know. This means embracing individuals you may have nothing in common with: thinkers who see the world differently than you do. Gather the talents of those who can teach you and give you things that you cannot give yourself.
- Remember the importance of expertise: Collaboration assumes a horizontal structure of activity. That is, everyone involved is suddenly on the same level. This democratic attitude can be a great thing, yet people sometimes forget the centrality of expertise. Don’t just solicit the opinion of the masses when you’re building your innovation team–find experts in the fields relevant to your initiative.
- Stop starting and start stopping: What if the key to innovation isn’t starting something new? What if the real secret is stopping something old? You don’t have the capacity – the time, resources or energy – to do the new things because you are busy maintaining the old ones. Starting new things is easy. You just add an app or expand your workday a couple of hours. Stopping things is hard. It’s full of feelings of loss, disappointment, and failure. It takes more than creativity. It takes courage to stop what you’ve been doing to make room for the things your organization wants to start doing now.
- Assemble your innovation advisory board: Assemble a group of bright, energetic thinkers that your organization can trust. Use them to brainstorm and bounce off ideas. Unlike a board of directors, which is subject to influence by outside financial interests like investors, a board of advisers has no vested interest in your company. Rather, they are committed solely to developing ideas and sharing and exchanging knowledge. The advisory board does the work that the organization can’t. Seek out people with extensive experience in their fields or those who can partner with you, such as customers, the community, investors, regulators, trendsetters and visionary revolutionaries.
In the following video, I explain how to create an ideal space for your employees to innovate.
Originally published on Quora.
Unleash your creativity
Discover the power of constructive conflict and how it can help foster innovation. By reading The Innovation Code, you will learn how to harness tension and transform it into positive energy to successfully implement your innovation projects.